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Sep 21, 2021

Demystifying carbon offsets

Whilst we are working hard to reduce our direct emissions through various initiatives, we are acting on our climate impact now - by offsetting the emissions in a way that can support communities around the world.

Alongside becoming a carbon neutral business, we are working hard to reduce our direct emissions through various initiatives including shifting to more energy-efficient technologies, lean manufacturing techniques and by switching to green electricity. However, right now, there is no way for us to conduct our business without creating some emissions. While we work to reduce these emissions, it is also important for us to mitigate our climate impact now, and we are doing this by offsetting the emissions in a way that supports communities around the world.

Offsetting

Offsetting is the mechanism through which organisations can take responsibility for carbon emissions

generated by their business activities, that are difficult or impossible to avoid. Offsetting tackles climate change by:

  • Making real reductions in amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere that would not have happened otherwise
  • Providing funds for renewable technologies and energy efficient solutions
  • Raising awareness of the impact that our lifestyles have on the climate, encouraging us to do more to reduce our carbon footprint.

All projects are certified to the highest possible standards within the carbon market to ensure that the emissions reductions are real and verified.

Choosing our projects

We work with our expert partner ClimateCare, to choose robust, high-quality projects that deliver emission

reductions alongside sustainable development impacts that mirror our sustainability strategy and core values. All the projects we support consult with local stakeholders before the project is implemented and get feedback from local communities about how the project is impacting them on an ongoing basis. In the great majority of projects, local communities are instrumental in running the project.

Projects which are benefitting from our carbon offsetting programme include solar power projects in India (chosen because of our existing manufacturing footprint in India), the manufacture of efficient cookstoves in Ghana (chosen because of the air quality issues in Ghana), and the regeneration of degraded lands in Chile (chosen because of the level of innovation associated with this project).

Each project also supports our recent alignment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Project One: Orb Energy, India

In rural areas of India, households use kerosene or other fossil fuels for energy and grid supply can be unreliable. Blackouts are not unusual and energy demand outstrips supply. Orb Energy manufactures, sells, installs, and services a range of high-quality solar energy systems for residential and commercial customers in India.

This project has brought over 160,000 reliable solar power and solar water heating systems to customers

throughout the country. It also reduces around 52,000 tonnes of CO2e per year by replacing the use of kerosene or dirty grid electricity. Household electricity bills are reduced by more than 50% when solar energy

is used for water heating. Businesses can operate for longer and more consistently. Improving productivity and lighting at home means greater opportunity for children to study.

Project Two: Mycorrhizal forestry, Chile

Chile is one of the most developed countries in the Southern Hemisphere, but an astounding two-thirds of the country is affected or threatened by desertification and drought. Of the 1.3 million people inhabiting the most affected areas, approximately 60% live in poverty. Between 50 and 150 years ago vast areas of the country were cleared for wheat production for export, to feed gold prospectors in North America. Without the forest cover, particularly in hilly regions, soil is eroded and the land degrades quickly. These degraded areas are unproductive and liable to flooding and drought, making rehabilitation of the forest very difficult.

An innovative partnership between biotech company Mikro-Tek and the Chilean forestry department is changing this. Mycorrhizae are fungi that work symbiotically with trees. The fungi grow on the trees’ roots, encouraging the formation of larger, healthier root systems, enabling plants to absorb additional nutrients and moisture from the soil. In exchange the host trees provide the fungi with energy in the form of carbohydrates from photosynthesis.

Local communities have established nurseries where saplings are inoculated with the fungi to ensure its strong

presence when the trees are planted. When planted, these saplings (now covering over 6,000 hectares) stabilise soil, reduce flooding and erosion risk, and provide an income for the landowners when they are harvested. This takes place 10-20 years after planting – at which point they are replaced with new saplings and the cycle continues.

Project Three: Gyapa Stoves Project, Ghana

Nearly 3 billion people in the developing world cook food and heat their homes with traditional cookstoves or open fires. The World Bank estimates that 4 million premature deaths occur every year as a result. In Ghana more than 80% of the population use solid fuels for cooking.

This project introduces the Gyapa to families in Ghana. An efficient cookstove, the Gyapa cooks food more quickly, requires 46% less fuel and is less smoky, meaning it not only cuts carbon emissions, but reduces exposure to toxic fumes. Cutting fuel requirements saves families as much as $100 dollars annually, at the same time protecting Ghana’s dwindling forests.

A key outcome from this project is job creation. The stoves are made locally; the liners by a small group of accredited local ceramicists who have received specialist training and the metal claddings by a further

group of accredited manufacturers. The project provides training and quality control services and distributes the stoves through a wide network of retailers.

If you have any suggestions, or questions about our sustainability strategy please get in touch with Sara Hallidaysara.halliday@severfield.com

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